Sulfation is a normal process that occurs in all lead-acid batteries. Lead sulfate forms gradually as batteries are charged and discharged. Over time, the lead sulfate crystallizes and loses the ability to conduct electricity.
This process reduces motive-power capacity, interferes with recharging and can damage plates inside the battery. Batteries damaged by sulfation have longer charging times and are less efficient. They also generate excessive heat and accelerate corrosion.
Unfortunately, battery warranties typically cover manufacturing defects, not sulfation problems, so material handling professionals must take the batteries to a repair facility. Repairing batteries off site can be expensive in terms of labor and transportation resources. It also causes downtime and often requires the purchase of spare batteries to keep lift trucks operating.
Bruce Zeier, president of Romoland, Calif.-based Bravo Zulu International Ltd., says lift truck fleet managers can avoid these costs by using his company's Batt-Recon model 4800 de-sulfation system and model 1000 portable load tester. These battery maintenance tools, according to Zeier, can perform most repair functions on site in approximately one hour.
“About 70% of battery replacements are caused by sulfation alone,” he says. Zeier recommends material handling professionals measure each battery's impedance (resistance to the flow of current) every six months and de-sulfate as levels rise. For typical material handling applications, he suggests de-sulfating batteries once a year.
“If a battery is kept at low or minimum impedance during its useful life, you will save between 10% and 35% of the electrical cost from charging alone,” Zeier claims. “Your electrical bill will be significantly reduced over a four-year period of de-sulfation processes.” He also says de-sulfation will extend the life of a battery by one to four years, therefore reducing the number of batteries that must be replaced.
Zeier says lift truck maintenance providers and mobile battery-repair companies provide the de-sulfation system to material handling professionals as part of their service offerings. To learn more, visit www.battrecon.com or ask your local maintenance provider for details.